Illustration for world cancer day

World cancer day 2020

We are Roche & we will continue to lead the fight against cancer together

Published 03 February 2020
By Elena Bernedo Arzac, Head of Global Product Strategy Oncology, Roche Pharmaceuticals

Today marks 20 years of the World Cancer Day (WCD) initiative and for me this is an opportunity to reflect on an important milestone for Roche.

I have dedicated a large portion of my life and career to ensuring that patients and physicians can access some of the latest and most important cancer medicines available. One area that is particularly meaningful to me personally is breast cancer.

Mirroring the time since the inception of WCD, the first dual blockade monoclonal antibody targeting the HER2+ receptor received approval in the EU 20 years ago. This breakthrough medicine, developed by Roche, has changed the ‘’natural’’ course of the disease for millions of patients around the world. It has not only had a profound impact on the people who have benefited from this treatment but also on how scientists and researchers think about how to detect and treat the myriad of different diseases that make up breast and other cancers. The key learning has been the power and significance of targeting specific characteristics of cancer, ushering in the dawn of the era of personalised medicines in oncology. Such is the effect of this Roche medicine that it has since been recognised as one of the most important cancer treatments in the world and has been listed on the WHO’s Essential Medicines List (EML).

Photo of Elena Bernedo Arzac
Elena Bernedo Arzac reflects back on partnerships and collaborations in cancer care with pride

However, it is not enough to ‘’simply’’ (there is nothing simple about it) develop these pioneering medicines, the infrastructure also needs to be in place. Which is why, since 2017, we have also been working in partnership with the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) to lead the excellent City Cancer Challenge, which aims to speed up and support cities across the globe with access to quality cancer services.

The goal and aspirations of the UICC group is as important today, if not more so than it was 20 years ago when it was founded. The founding charter of the UICC speaks of uniting researchers, governments, healthcare professionals, patients and the pharmaceutical industry and of forming an ‘’invincible alliance’’ to fight this group of diseases we catalogue as cancer.

The notion of pooling knowledge and resources is close to my heart and alongside many of my colleagues here at Roche I have been advocating for the need to collaborate for many years to find innovative solutions to the biggest challenges of the day. Importantly, we are taking time to learn from and understand every patient’s unique disease by utilising the technologies of our partners, Foundation Medicine and Flatiron Health. By partnering with these companies we are able to harness the power of Real World Data, Genomic Profiling and Next Generation Sequencing. By incorporating the insights that we derive from these topics into our drug discovery journey we are accelerating research and development to bring targeted personalised medicines to more and more patients, faster.

Another example of how we are collaborating is through the imCORE Network, a group of experts that unites world-leading researchers from across the globe. These researchers are committed to advancing the standards of care of today by developing new approaches within the exciting field of cancer immunotherapy.

A day such as WCD creates an opportunity for me to not only reflect back on all these great partnerships and collaborations over the past 50 years with pride, but to also look forward and I do so with great optimism. We continue to work and partner with the UICC and others as we aim to transform the lives of people living with cancer – which is at the heart of everything we do. We are Roche & we will continue to lead the fight against cancer…together.

- Elena

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See below for examples of how we are driving the science in oncology

Tags: People, Science, Oncology, We are Roche